What exactly is heaven? Where is it? When did it start? Will it really last for ever; and if so, just how long is that, anway? What makes it heaven?
Before Christ came into my life, all of my pursuit of Him was really me chasing a heaven of my imagination- and I basically thought that that was what the Christian life is. There have been so many questions that have come into my heart these past several months as I look around in awe at what it is really like. I find that being a Christian isn’t like I thought being a Christian would be (no! for being a Christian means being with the REAL Christ, not the hollow, uncaring Christ of my imagination!), and with that come so many other things which I find to be so different. For instance, heaven. I guess if being a Christian isn’t quite like I thought being a Christian would be, heaven just might not be exactly what I was expecting either. And I’ve found that it is not.
Let me start by decribing to you the heaven which unbelieving Ellen was pursuing:
It was a big place… I didn’t ever really visualize what it looked like, but it was certainly pleasant. I guess although the idea was really appealing to me, my main thought was not of the “golden castle” idea of heaven, because that was not what I was most hoping for. Not castles. The most prominite picture in my mind was the idea of having every thing go “my way”-I just I had a vague thought of finally being ‘in charge’ of what happened to me in some way. I was chasing a dream of a place where everything happened the way I wanted it to. My second thought of heaven was as a quiet spot where I could sit in a rocking chair & finally hold my Abigail again. I wanted to go to heaven (1) because I knew that hell was real in some way & didn’t want to go there; (2) because I wanted to finally be in a place where (as I thought) I might be able to make things go how I wanted them to go; (3) because I had (and still have) an intense longing to see the sister I never got to know, just once more. Always in my imagining of heaven Abby was there, just me & her. Abby was what made it heaven in my mind- in all ways it was much as this world is, except that Abigail was there, and dying was not real. I thought heaven was heaven because Abigail was there & bitter death was not.
But that is not why heaven is heaven. I find now that heaven is heaven because of Christ. Now that I know Him, I know that it could not possibly be heaven without Him. He is what is lovely about it. Not the gold & silver, no! Not the freedom from death- Christ, Christ is why it is heaven, I see now what I did not see before. Heaven is a place where we will at last be so free from sin that our released spirits will finally be able to praise our Saviour without check or bound; a place where the grief and hurt and pain that cuts us here will not come & sting any longer; a place where death that chases us here will not be permitted to enter; a place where our awakened souls will join with so many other saints who have gone before in inceasantly singing the glory of our God; a place where we will finally be complete in Christ; a place where we will finally see Him face to face; a place where we can at last sit in His holy presence forever & ever.
I am still exploring the meaning of heaven & would be a fool to try & expound further. With every new truth I dicover of our Home, the longing grows keener. The thought of going there grows sweeter in my heart with every changing tide of life, as I find that less & less of my own is here on earth. Every day as my understanding of heaven is growing deeper & I am finding that it is nothing like I thought it would be, that it is so much more beautiful than I thougth it would be- I find that I must be careful that my goal does not once again become heaven, but that my goal be now & always my only Christ. I must constantly remind myself as I strive to press daily toward my resting place where I can be with Him at last, that He is not absent from us who still trek the road to our Home. He is with us all along the road which we travel. He has not left His children to sojourn alone in this land. We can know Him here. He is with us here. We can praise Him here. We are His here.
Now I will leave you with some quotes from three of my favourite tools in discovering the truths of heaven: the Holy Scriptures, Samuel Rutherford, and Rich Mullins:
“Whom have I in Heaven but Thee?” Psalm 73.25
“He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of
the earth: he that comes from heaven is above all.” John 3.31
“He that believes on the Father has everlasting life…” John 3.36
“He that has the Son has life…” I John 5.12
“These things have I written to you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you might believe on the name of the Son of God.” John 5.13
“…That we might know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son
Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” I John 5.20
“There is such a thing as Glory
And there are hints of it everywhere
And the hints are overwelming
And it’s scent is in the air
It’s more powerful than morning
Oh the morning can’t compare
With such a thing as glory…” Rich Mullins
“When I leave I want to go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
It’ll be like a candlelight in central park
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye.” Rich Mullins
“They are not lost ot you who are laid up in Christ treasurury in heaven. At the ressurection you ye shall meet with them: there they are, sent before but not sent away. The Lord loveth you, who is homely to take and give, to borrow & lend.” Samuel Rutherford
“There is nothing but perfect garden flowers in heaven, and the greatest plenishing there is Christ” Samuel Rutherford
“God has made many fair flowers, but the fairest of them all is heaven and the flower of all flowers is Christ.” Samuel Rutherford
“We smell the smoke of this lower house of the earth, because our heart and our thoughts are here. If we could mount up with God, we should smell of heaven and of our country above, and like strangers or people not born or brought up here-away. Our crosses would not bite upon us, if we were Heavenly minded.” Samuel Rutherford
“The sea-sick passenger shall come to land; Christ will be the first that will meet you on the shore” Samuel Rutherford
“Christ has come, and run away to heaven with my heart and my love, so that neither heart nor love is mine.” Samuel Rutherford
“Go on and faint not, something of yours is in heaven, beside the flesh of your exalted Saviour, and ye go on after your own.” Samuel Rutherford
It is not an imaginary place where fairy-angels dance in piles of gold. It is a real place. Real people I love are there right now. Abigail is there. My great grandmother Angeline is there. Even as we still daily have to remind ourselves that she is no longer here, Mrs Amber is there. It is amzing to imagine for a moment how different it must be for her than for us who are left behind for a little while longer. We know that they are expiriencing a greater reality than we could ever begin to get a hint of down here in the play world. Press on, press on toward heaven & Christ, do not look back on this old, cold, dirty playhouse, unless it be to grab by the hand some poor other, by such encouraging them to loosen their hold of the things of earth in a greater quest for things eternal. “What may I say of Him? Let us come & see.”